The world population is over 7 billion and over 15% of the population is physically challenged in one form or another. According to surveys, only one in ten people with a form of disability have access to any form of assistive technologies or products. Braille for the visually impaired, hearing aid for the hard of hearing, wheelchairs for a physical malady, are among the most common forms of aid that human intelligence has come with up. Technology has helped mankind in a myriad of ways.
Now, let’s talk about a few ways AI can help the specially-abled. Advances in AI like Speech-to-Text transcription, predictive text, and facial recognition promise a more inclusive future for all of humanity.
AI is Bridging the gap for the visually impaired.
Efforts are being taken to create a more accessible environment for the visually impaired. Text-to-speech can help to describe emoji from pictures. This could possibly serve as a digital eye, thanks to various AI techniques.
It is also interesting to see how the visually impaired can profit by self-driving cars. At 100 percent efficiency, self-driving cars can enable hassle-free transport for all, regardless of their driving ability.
‘AI for Accessibility’, which is a five-year program by Microsoft, with an investment of $25 million, promises to put AI in the hands of developers to make the world more accessible by providing AI solutions for the specially-abled.
“AI can be a game changer for people with disabilities. Already we’re witnessing this as people with disabilities expand their use of computers to hear, see and reason with impressive accuracy,” -Brad Smith, President and CLO at Microsoft.
Microsoft is also assisting the hearing impaired with real-time captioning for conversations. The students of Amity International School in Gurugram developed an app called ‘Practikality’ which is a machine learning based assistant which helps the differently-abled communicate efficiently.
Ellie Southwood, who has sight loss says the Amazon Echo dot makes her feel more included. “I spend far less time searching for things online; I can multi-task while online and be more productive. Microsoft’s Seeing AI app means I can recognize people and scenarios and make up my own mind about what’s going on.”
AI is powerful enough to foster inclusion
Advances in artificial intelligence promise a more inclusive environment for the masses. Biometric attendance systems make it easier for people with dyslexia who find it difficult to remember passwords login easily. Predictive text, text-to-speech, speech-to-text, have already showcased promising results when it comes to helping people with vision and hearing impairment.
Another application where Artificial Intelligence is making its presence felt is Exoskeletons. Technology is drastically changing for the physically challenged as well. Robotic exoskeletons have made it easy for people with physical deformities to walk around. Although the technology is still improving, the possibilities are infinite.
GnoSys is a smartphone application explicitly developed for deaf and mute people. Also called the ‘Google translator for the deaf and mute’, the app uses natural language processing, neural networks, and computer vision to translate gestures and sign language to speech. According to the National Deaf Association of India, 18 million people are hearing impaired or are hard of hearing. The app is expected to hit the Indian market in 2019 and promises to change the lives of 18 million people in India alone. Roman Wyhowski Founder & CEO Evalk believes this app is the need of the hour as most of the existing translation software in the market are slow and expensive. Showcased in Netherlands recently, GnoSys can translate as fast as a person speaks, translate sign languages to text and speech, and can be plugged into assistants as well.
Whether it is to assist or to empower them, Artificial Intelligence technologies will leave no stone unturned to create an impact in the lives of the specially-abled, both physically and mentally.